In all his years of RCMP police work, starting as a Constable and graduating to Inspector, Tony Hamori has seen people whose “lifestyles lead to a higher chance of homicide,” but this was most certainly not the case in the Castor murders of Gordon, Sandra and Monica Klaus in December 2013.
Gordon, 61, Sandra, 62, and their daughter, Monica, 40, were killed in their home, which was intentionally set on fire, police allege. Police will not say if the victims died in the fire or before the fire was set.
With the facts being prepared to go before the courts, there’s very little Hamori can say except that he’s “very confident” that the two men arrested in the murders – Jason Klaus, 48, son of Gordon and Sandra and brother to Monica, and his “friend and associate” Joshua Frank, 29, are the guilty parties – the only guilty parties – and that organized crime is not involved.
The two men appeared in Red Deer provincial court on Mon., Aug. 18 via closed-circuit television, where they reserved their plea for the next court date, scheduled for Sept. 17. Bail was denied in both cases.
It took nine months from the fire to the arrests on Friday, Aug. 15 in Stettler and Castor to conclude and the investigation was only able to move so quickly because the community got behind supporting the police in their efforts to find the Klaus’ murderers, phoning in tips and sightings.
“(The public) was key to the investigation,” Hamori said. “Public assistance is always how we start. The community was extremely cooperative.”
Hamori said he believes investigators would have eventually settled on Jason Klaus and Frank as the suspects in the homicides, but it would have taken longer for them to get there if information from tipsters hadn’t pointed them at the two suspects.
He said the surviving member of the Klaus family and Frank both ended up on the investigators’ radar fairly early into the investigation.
“The investigative process led us to them,” Hamori said.
“Both of them surfaced quite early in the investigation. Jason Klaus was deemed to be a suspect quite early in the investigation. Joshua Frank became a suspect a little bit later on in the timeline.”
Hamori held a press conference in Calgary on Sat., Aug. 16 to announce the charges, revealing that the investigation indicated the family was targeted by the two accused, and that the murders and fire were planned in advance. Both accused face three charges each of first degree murder and a single charge of arson. Frank faces a charge of injuring an animal for shooting the family’s dog.
Police have remained silent since a February appeal for people to come forward with information on the fire, deaths of the Klaus victims and their dog, Keela, and the discovery of the farm’s truck near Alliance.
“We are confident we have the two people who are responsible for this crime, and we’re not looking for any other suspects,” Hamori said. As for Jason Klaus and Frank, Hamori said that, “All I’m prepared to say at this time is that they’re friends and associates, and that they’ve known each other for a while.”
On July 26-27, a dive team from B.C. came in at the RCMP’s request and searched the Red Deer River near Big Knife Provincial Park in search of evidence. The dive team scanned the area for two days before successfully recovering a “key” piece of evidence, though Hamori could not reveal what police divers found on the river bottom.
“I would say it’s very significant,” Hamori conceded. “It was a key piece of evidence in the crime.”
He also said even if police had not found this evidence in the river, the case against the two accused in the matter would have gone ahead.
The news has been especially difficult for the grandparents of Klaus, who lost their daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter in the fire and now finds their grandson accused of the murders, according to a friend close to the family. Lowell and Janette Berry, from Halkirk, declined to make a comment at this time, as did family of Joshua Frank.
Klaus was arrested at the Stettler residence of his deceased sister, Monica, in the afternoon, police said. She lived in one of Stettler’s trailer parks. Frank was arrested at his brother’s Castor residence, Hamori said, later that day.
Though police have previously stated it was believed Sandra’s body had been lost in the fire and that she was, too, a victim of homicide, Hamori’s words at the press conference eliminated hope that she would be found alive.
“(Sandra’s) remains were never found,” Hamori confirmed. “It’s our belief that her remains were consumed in the fire. The fire was quite intense at the time it happened.”
The farmhouse where the fire was set had a quantity of coal in the basement, as the home was heated by a coal furnace. The fire burned extremely hot, hot enough to cremate a body.
It also made it difficult for fire crews and police to access the ruined building after the fire was extinguished, because it remained hot and unstable for several days. The water used to put out the fire later led to a thick layer of ice being present on much of the crime scene.
“In that fire, three victims lost their lives,” Hamori said. “On behalf of the RCMP, myself and the investigative team, we express our condolences to the extended family and friends of the victims in this fire.”